We caught up with English singer-songwrier Mahalia ahead of her performance in Whelan's. At just nineteen, Mahalia has already toured with the likes of Emile Sande and Ed Sheeran, collaborated with Rudimental and worked with Grammy Award-winning producers Nineteen85 (Drake, Jessie Ware, Nicki Minaj) and Stephen Fitzmaurice (U2, Sam Smith, JP Cooper) and appeared in Noel Clarke's 2016 film Brotherhood.
Following a series of singles and EPs Mahalia released her debut album 'Diary Of Me' last year to critical acclaim and is already hard at work on its follow-up.
You released 'Diary of Me' last year, how was the writing/recording process for that? How, if at all, was it different to previous recordings?
To be honest, the process was a long one. Overall, all of the songs from 'Diary Of Me' are from the past five years. So, essentially, it took me a really long time to get it together. It was a long process but a fun one definitely. I learnt a lot, my writing process changed constantly over the years and I experienced lots and so had lots to write about. I remember sitting in a Cottage in Dingle, Ireland on my 18th birthday and pulling it all together. It was a real moment for me. I felt like I was letting go of quite a big weight. Writing music is so personal and I had such a back up of songs because I wasn't releasing anything, Diary Of Me was my release.
Is there any song in particular that stands out to you as being a difficult one to write? Or one that you were scared to have others hear? What was the story behind it?
To be honest, I was really scared for people to hear Sober. That is one of my songs that came from a really broken place. And though now I can look back on it and be happy that something great came out of it, It took me months to write. And I was so worried that people wouldn't take it like how I intended. But, the response has been great and I'm happy it's out and people are vibing to it.
You've been writing music since you were super young, what are the biggest things that you've learned? How has your style changed over the years?
I think the biggest thing I've learned is not to worry about change. When I was younger, I used to think that if I wanted to write a song on a beat instead of my guitar, people would think I was "selling out" as they say ha! It's silly when I think about it now but it used to really worry me when I was a little younger. I think there's a real maturity in my music now. Though I think I've always been pretty mature, there's something about the way I am now that I find different. Even my process... I take time over my lyrics and make sure everything not only makes sense to listeners, but is also true to my artistry.
Do you think starting so young has worked to your advantage?
Definitely! I think the fact that I started so young gives me a sense of experience when it comes to the nitty gritty of the business itself. I understand things that I may not have understood if I just started working in music now. However, there's a part of me that does wish I'd have started later. Being signed so young, I had to grow up pretty quick and I slyly wish that I had more of my teenage years to just joke around and be a kid. I don't regret anything though! I'm happy and healthy and that's all I could want at this age.
You also appeared on the title track of Rudimental's 'We The Generation' album - how was that experience?
Yeah, it was really great - very strange for me at the time. It was the first time I'd really ever done anything like a collaboration but, it was really exciting. All the guys in Rudimental are great. I love them all a lot!
Do you think the music scene of your hometown has influenced the way you write at all? What was the scene like growing up?
Yes definitely. Leicester has a huge music scene and it's really diverse. There's quite a big folk scene here. As a kid, I was really into Indi band. Me and my mates used to put on the same/similar outfits and run to watch pretty boys sing on stage in shitty pubs. We used to love it. My brother was in an MC group when I was a bit younger called BLG. They're so sick. I've always loved it here! You can always run out of the house on any day and find good music to listen to.
Who are/were you influenced by musically?
When I was younger, I had loads of influences I think. I was heavily inspired by female artists like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse, Adele and more... I was also really into the Kooks and The Arctic Monkeys. I remember my brother having both of their albums on CD and I used to steal them to put in my cd rom so I could dance around my room, ha!
I think I had quite a wide palette of music when I was younger. Now I'm writing more, I've kind of had to stop listening to so much music. It can sometimes be quite drowning when you're trying to create something yourself.
When it comes to performing, how hard is it to translate your songs to a live setting?
That's my favourite part! I've always found doing that quite easy. I guess it's harder when you have a produced track as translating it with just a guitar can be tricky. However, I've always loved taking my more produced songs and making them sound sweet on the acoustic guitar. I always found that really fun and creative.
Who are some people that you're listening to right now?
I'll be honest, I'm not really listening to music. I'm writing a lot at the minute and I think it's really important to keep a fresh mind when you're doing that. Now, I purely listen to music because it makes me happy. I've been playing the SZA album on repeat for the past couple months - I think her work is beautiful.
What does the next twelve months look like for you?
I'm not totally sure to be honest! I'm about to start my UK and Ireland tour again on Wednesday. I'm in the studio a lot writing my album... I can't wait to show people what I've been up to. I think I'm just ready to ride whatever wave comes my way!
Mahalia Irish Tour:
Upstairs at Whelan's - Nov 8
Cyprus Avenue, Cork - Nov 9
Dolan's, Limerick - Nov 10
Roisin Dubh, Galway - Nov 11